Neuroscientists at Duke University have introduced “a new paradigm for brain-machine interfaces” called Brainet.
Advancements in neuroscience surge ahead as dividends are being received from global projects like the BRAIN initiative in the U.S. and its counterpart in Europe, the Human Brain Project. The mission to decode the human brain is a complex one and is most likely a parallel endeavor comprising legitimate treatment for disorders, while simultaneously enabling military and other less ethical mind control applications to be developed.
The realization of full brain-to-brain and brain-to-computer-interface technology appears to be reaching an imminent reality. Neuroscientists at Duke University claim to have introduced “a new paradigm for brain-machine interfaces that investigates the physiological properties and adaptability of brain circuits, and how the brains of two or more animals can work together to complete simple tasks.” This interface is being called a Brainet; and shows how both lower-level mammals such as rodents, as well as primates at the higher level can now exchange brain activity information in real-time.
This type of research from Duke dates back until at least 2011, when they demonstrated for the first time that primates were able to communicate their intended movements within a virtual interface. The results in the video below demonstrate the creation of an avatar that can explore a virtual landscape via brain-to-computer interface.
The latest developments go a giant step further, according to the press release referred to below, and establish a link not only from brain to computer, but also brain to brain. This enables cooperative communication within the virtual landscape, providing a range of potential benefits that could readily apply to humans.
In one example, scientists linked the brains of rhesus macaque monkeys, who worked together to control the movements of the arm of a virtual avatar on a digital display in front of them. Each animal controlled two of three dimensions of movement for the same arm as they guided it together to touch a moving target.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface, a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” said Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph. D., co-director of the Center for Neuroengineering at the Duke University School of Medicine and principal investigator for the study. “We foresee that shared BMIs will follow the same track, and could soon be translated to clinical practice.” (emphasis added)
These results do indeed appear to be the culmination of other experiments in collecting brain data in order to interact with external devices, robotic prostheses and even establish a two-way link between humans that has allowed for the remote control of another person over the Internet in real-time, as seen in this video:
The Brainet, like other similar technologies, pushes ethical boundaries. Emphasis added:
In one experiment, rats received temperature and barometric pressure information and were able to combine information with the other rats to predict an increased or decreased chance of rain. Under some conditions, the authors observed that the rat Brainet could perform at the same level or better than one rat on its own.
These results support the original claim of the same group that Brainets may serve as test beds for the development of organic computers created by the interfacing of multiple animal brains with computers.
Nicolelis and colleagues of the Walk Again Project, based in the project’s laboratory in Brazil, are currently working on a non-invasive human Brainet to be used for neuro-rehabilitation training in paralyzed patients.
There is no doubt that this research may present tremendous benefits for those who have been paralyzed, or have other disorders which limit physical movement and sensation. The ability to not only virtually represent one’s thoughts, but also to fully communicate with other individuals is a magnificent area of research.
One could also argue that, in terms of connecting brains, our current World Wide Web is nothing more than the sharing of our thoughts amongst one another within a virtual space, which then allows for a more rapid advancement in overall knowledge.
However, the notion of using the physical brains of individuals for creating some sort of collectivized organic mega-computer sounds like the plot to severely dystopian science fiction.
As we get closer to these brave new realities, it is essential that we continue asking questions about what, if any, boundaries we need to establish before the next development is announced.
For additional information about where organic computing and the establishment of mega-A.I. systems and economies might lead, I highly recommend the following articles:
- The Coming ”Brain Chip”
- The A.I. Thought Police
- Nanoparticles Enable Remote Control Brains Via Magnetic Field: New Study
- Uberveillance: Internet of Things, Energy Harvesting, and Guardian Angels
- DARPA Wants Portable Brain Recorders “In Every Classroom in America”